US 'may have' downed two Iranian drones: CENTCOM

US 'may have' downed two Iranian drones: CENTCOM
A CENTCOM commander said the US may have downed two Iranian drones last week, though he was unsure.
3 min read
24 July, 2019
The US and Iran have been targeting drones amid heightened tensions [File Photo: Getty]
A US warship may have brought down two Iranian drones in a stand-off in the Gulf last week that Iran has disputed, the commander of regional forces said on Tuesday.

"We are confident we brought down one drone, we may have brought down a second," General Kenneth McKenzie, the CENTCOM commander, told CBS news in an interview aboard the USS Boxer, the vessel at the center of the incident.

"As always it was a complex tactical picture, we believe two drones. We believe two drones were successfully - there may have been more that we are not aware of - those are the two that we engaged successfully," McKenzie said. 

CBS said the drones were reportedly brought down by an electronic signal or pulse that disabled their flight controls. One drone disappeared from US military radars while the second was seen hitting the water.

Iran, which last month shot down a US Global Hawk drone that it said had ventured into its airspace, has denied that it lost any of its own unmanned aerial vehicles, after President Donald Trump announced that the USS Boxer had downed one. 

The commander’s comments come amid soaring tensions in the region in recent weeks, which saw Trump say he had called off strikes against Iran at the last minute in response to the destruction of a US drone.

Meanwhile, a series of attacks on oil tankers in the strategically vital waterway, as well as Iran's seizure of a British-flagged tanker in retaliation for Britain impounding one of its own vessels in Gibraltar, have turned the Gulf into a powder keg.

Washington and Tehran have been at loggerheads since May 2018, when Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from a landmark 2015 deal that put curbs on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump said chances of negotiating with Iran were dwindling, citing increasing tensions in the Gulf and blasting the Islamic republic as the world's top "state of terror."

The president cited a series of recent conflicts involving Tehran, including the downing of US and Iranian drones and, most recently, Tehran's announcement that it arrested 17 people in connection to a CIA spy ring, a claim Trump rejected as "lies."

"Frankly it's getting harder for me to want to make a deal with Iran, because they behave very badly," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, as visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan sat at his side.

"I'll tell you it could go either way, very easily," Trump added. "And I'm OK either way it goes.”

Iran said it would attend a meeting in Vienna this weekend with countries still party to the troubled nuclear accord.

The meeting was requested by the European parties to discuss the "new situation", Iran said, referring to its reduced nuclear commitments under the deal in response to the US withdrawal.

The EU confirmed Iran would meet envoys from the remaining parties - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - on Sunday.

Tehran has already given up on complying with some of the deal's limits on its nuclear programme in retaliation for the US withdrawal and what it sees as the failure of other parties to help it circumvent sanctions.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab